A Christmas celebration led by preacher Stephen Tong at Sabuga Building in Bandung, West Java, on Tuesday (06/12) was forced to end after a Muslim hardliner group disrupted services.
The group, identifying as Defenders of Ahlus Sunnah (PAS), forced organizers to end the event and claiming the religious service should be held in a church, not a public building.
Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil apologized for the disruption via his official Instagram account: “I apologized, physically I cannot attend all locations. I have instructed officials to secure the event by phone."
He indicated authorities were aware of the event prior to the day, adding: "I have coordinated, continue the activities as your religious rights are protected by the state."
Chronology of events
Bandung police explained a timeline of the events to Beritasatu.com
3.32 p.m. Reverend Stephen Tong coordinated with city official Iwan and police officers Second Insp. Edy and Kasmari over the PAS demands to vacate the Sabuga Building.
Stephen asked for 45 minutes to discuss it with the congregation that had entered the building.
4.32 p.m. Iwan explained the preacher’s request to PAS.
5.00 p.m. Members of PAS gathered in the building’s entrance and said they would give until 6.00 p.m. for the congregation to leave the building.
5.30 p.m. PAS members, led by a member identified as Roin, entered the building to disrupt choir practice. PAS members led by Roin entered the building to interrupt the activities of choir practice. At this point, all members of the congregation and committee were asked to exit the building for mediation.
5.45 p.m. PAS representatives took a prayer break.
7.00 p.m. PAS and church committee, accompanied by police, conducted mediation. Stephen, representing the church, spoke for 10 minutes and said "faults in the procedure of acquiring activity permits" meant the service could not continue.
8.00 p.m. PAS representatives meet as a group to discuss mediation result.
8.05 p.m. Stephen explains procedural issues to congregation.
8.19 p.m. Congregation sings Holy Night hymn and prays before leaving the premises.
8.21 p.m. The congregation left the building followed by PAS.
During the rally, PAS carried a banner reading: "West Java Muslim communist asks the celebration be moved to a designated space, not a public space."
A source within the church committee who asked not to be identified told Beritasatu.com that all permit requirements to hold the services have been fulfilled, including submitting notifications to the government and police.
The committee is expected to release and official statement Wednesday afternoon.
Public facilities can be used for religious activities if organizers acquire permits from authorities, such as the Dec. 2 mass prayer rally in Central Jakarta which saw hundreds of thousands of Muslims participate in Friday prayers at the National Monument complex.